Employer of oil rig victims was sued in 2011: Lawyer

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Nov 22 2012 01:13 PM | Updated as of Nov 22 2012 09:13 PM

BATON ROUGE, CA – A Filipino-American immigration lawyer confirmed that a class action lawsuit was filed last year against Grand Isle Shipyard, Inc (GIS) that provides Filipino workers for Black Elk Energy and other agencies.

Thirty-seven of Grand Isle’s former employees, all from the Philippines, sued their former employer for alleged labor law violations, discrimination and human trafficking.

“GIS is denying the allegations,” said immigration lawyer Elaine Carr. She added, “We’re not discounting the possibility that we will represent the victims and families of the injured workers”.

According to court records, Grand Isle Shipyard, Inc. allegedly promised the Filipino victims economic and employment stability.

Instead, they were allegedly trafficked, imprisoned, exploited and were treated as second class citizens by GIS.

Allegedly overworked and underpaid, the Filipino workers said they were threatened with deportation if they complained.

On top of that, the Filipino workers were allegedly provided substandard housing arrangements but were charged exorbitant living expenses.

Court records show that these former employees are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

About 20 out of the 37 Filipinos who filed the lawsuit have received a T-visa and can now legally stay in the US while the case is being tried.

“They have been granted refugee status and the others are in the Philippines,” Carr said.

In a phone conversation with Balitang America, GIS said that they are not responding to questions about the lawsuit at this time as they are more concerned about the welfare of the Filipino casualties.